Governor Cuomo Announces New Public-Private Research Collaboration To Advance Diagnosis And Treatment Of Tick-Borne Diseases

Wadsworth Center Laboratory and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Aim to Improve Diagnosis of Lyme Disease and Develop New Treatments.

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Photo by: Catkin

Albany, NY - June 19, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new, groundbreaking public-private research collaboration to advance the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases. The New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center Laboratory and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. - a leading biotechnology company that invents life-transforming medicines for people with serious diseases, will collaborate to potentially develop improved diagnostics, prophylactics, and therapeutics for the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne diseases, starting with Lyme disease.
"This public-private collaboration harnesses the expertise of a world-leading biotech company to tackle one of the most pressing public health issues of our time," Governor Cuomo said. "Together, Regeneron and the Wadsworth Center Laboratory have the potential to advance health research, develop life-saving treatments for Lyme disease, and address major gaps in our knowledge of tick-borne illnesses. New York is proud to help bolster our world-class, life sciences industry while investing in a safer, healthier Empire State for all."
Tick-borne diseases, particularly Lyme disease, are among the fastest growing infectious diseases in the United States. When diagnosed correctly and treated, most Lyme disease patients recover within two weeks. However, proven diagnostic tests for Lyme disease have been mostly unchanged for the past 40 years and can have limitations when used at certain times during the course of illness, leaving patients and their providers frustrated, which may lead to missed opportunities for treatment.
Regeneron and the Wadsworth Center Laboratory will jointly research how the causative agent of Lyme disease, the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, replicates when a human is bitten by a tick carrying the bacterium, and how the host's immune response is activated. This information will potentially advance the development of improved diagnostics, prophylactics, and new therapeutics. Over the course of five years, Regeneron will invest up to $48 million in this research and the state will reimburse 50 percent of Regeneron's research costs up to a total reimbursement of $24 million through the New York State Life Sciences Initiative. Additionally, up to $6 million will be provided to Wadsworth Center Laboratory through the Life Sciences Initiative.
The groundbreaking collaboration between Regeneron and the Department of Health's Wadsworth Center Laboratory builds on Governor Cuomo's $750 million commitment to support construction of a new worldclass, stateoftheart Wadsworth Center Laboratory public health laboratory in the Capital Region that will promote collaborative public-private research. Redesigned as "A Lab for The 21st century," Wadsworth will function as a magnet for future private sector investments where employees, visiting researchers, company executives, and academic partners cross paths to accelerate innovation and value creation. As one of the world's largest public health research laboratories, this modern facility and committed co-investment will serve as a flagship project for the state, signaling a strong and long-term commitment to the Capital Region's life sciences industry.
The Wadsworth Center Laboratory serves a vital role in the Department of Health's efforts to protect and promote the health of New York residents. Building on more than a century of excellence as the state's public health laboratory, the Wadsworth Center Laboratory continues as a premier biomedical institute that merges clinical and environmental testing with fundamental, applied and translational research. Today, laboratory scientists use both classical and contemporary approaches to study environmental and biological questions related to human health and disease, which will support the collaboration with Regeneron.
Regeneron is a science-driven, world-leading biopharmaceutical company headquartered in Tarrytown, New York that discovers, develops and manufactures innovative medicines. Regeneron was established as a biotech start-up in 1988 in New York City, and the following year, under the leadership of then-Governor Mario Cuomo, Empire State Development invested $250,000 to support the company's growth. Within years, the state realized a 300-percent return on that investment. Regeneron is now the largest biotech company in New York State and one of the largest in the world, with several approved treatments and a robust pipeline of compounds all developed in New York laboratories.
Regeneron is progressing several important potential infectious disease treatments, all of which were built and tested using the company's proprietary VelociSuite platforms. Regeneron's Rapid Response capability speeds development of potential treatments by using their VelociGene and VelocImmune technologies to quickly develop fully human antibodies specific to a particular pathogen and create a genetically humanized model to test and validate these antibodies. The company recently delivered its investigational Ebola treatment, REGN-EB3, to the Democratic Republic of the Congo for potential use in the ongoing outbreak.
ESD President, CEO & Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "Empire State Development is proud to incentivize this innovative partnership between Regeneron and the Wadsworth Center Laboratory that both advances human health and spurs the growth of a world-class life science research cluster in New York."
Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "The Department's Wadsworth Center Laboratory is home to some of the nation's premier research scientists, and by partnering with a first-class organization like Regeneron, we are taking a significant step forward in developing a more accurate and efficient test to diagnose and ultimately treat these devastating diseases. Governor Cuomo understands the important role research plays in improving the health and well-being of New Yorkers."
"As a proud New York biotech company, we appreciate the continued commitment of Governor Cuomo's administration to make New York the ideal location to progress innovative life science research," said Leonard S. Schleifer, M.D., Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of Regeneron. "We are looking forward to expanding the potential impact of our infectious disease program and collaborating with the Wadsworth Center Laboratory on potential solutions for tick-borne diseases, which are increasing in incidence and can be extremely difficult to diagnose and treat."
Senator Sue Serino, Chair of the Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases said, "Since taking office, I have heard from countless New Yorkers who have suffered gravely as a result of an inaccurate Lyme Disease diagnosis and lack of advancement in this field. Last year, Senator Kemp Hannon and I held a joint hearing to help the state improve its response to the Lyme and tick-borne disease epidemic. At that time, we urged the state to lead the way and make a significant investment in this critical area. As Chair of the Senate's Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, I am proud that the voices of so many who have been suffering in silence for far too long are finally being heard. I thank the Governor for giving this issue the attention it deserves and I look forward to the day when false negatives and inaccurate results are a thing of the past and patients in New York can receive the effective, quality care they deserve."
Senator Neil D. Breslin said, "The growth of health care treatments and services have become key economic drivers for New York's economy. The Governor's focus on expanding these industries provides a major boost to the Capital Region by supporting our academic institutions, attracting top scientists, and advancing treatments for diseases like Lyme that impact so many of our residents. I look forward to the continued development of treatments through this new collaboration, and thank Regeneron for working with the state of New York to provide stronger communities for the next generation."
Assembly Member Patricia A. Fahy said, "The Governor's comprehensive Life Sciences initiative is drawing world-class researchers Upstate to be part of the transformative health advances that are being discovered right here in the Capital Region. I am proud of the life-changing R&D that Wadsworth and Regeneron have already accomplished, and by partnering on this latest endeavor, New Yorkers across the state will reap the benefits of newly developed diagnoses and treatments."
Assembly Member John T. McDonald III said, "Lyme Disease and tick-borne diseases are ongoing healthcare concerns especially in New York State. I applaud this public-private partnership that advances the research surrounding these diseases and will hopefully provide innovative solutions to this issue. The Governor's new investment to support the partnership between Regeneron and Wadsworth Center Laboratory will take these efforts even further by leveraging the assets found in the Capital Region to develop new, potentially life-saving treatments for tick-borne illnesses. I proudly support projects that aim to keep the health of all New Yorkers a top priority."
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said, "I commend Governor Cuomo for investing in the development of new treatments for Lyme disease here in the Capital Region at the Wadsworth Center. By supporting New York State's growing life science research cluster, this partnership will help create jobs, develop new life-saving health services and support an improved quality of life for our residents."
Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan said, "As summer approaches, New Yorkers are reminded of the dangers of tick-borne illnesses. This collaborative public-private partnership will bring together world-class scientists and health researchers to uncover new treatments and preventative measures at the Capital Region's premiere public health laboratory. Thank you to Governor Cuomo for supporting this critical public health project and investing in Albany's Wadsworth Center Laboratory."
New York State's $620 Million Life Science Initiative
In the FY 2018 state budget includes a $620 million initiative to spur the growth of a world-class life science research cluster in New York, as well as expand the state's ability to commercialize this research and grow the economy. The Governor's multi-faceted initiative includes, $100 million to expand the Excelsior Jobs Program Tax Credit to the life sciences industry, $100 million for a life sciences research and development refundable tax credit program, and $320 million in other forms of investment.
To support the development of wet-lab and innovation space, the initiative includes state capital grants for operating support and investment capital for early stage life science companies that leverage an additional match of at least $100 million from the private sector.
The Life Science sector encompasses the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, biomedical technologies, life systems technologies, and includes organizations and institutions that devote the majority of their efforts to the various stages of research, development, technology transfer and commercialization. Every day, firms in this sector are developing new medical and pharmaceutical breakthroughs that have the potential to save lives, whether through new therapies or the early detection of diseases like autism and cancer. These firms are also making significant advancements in the realms of agriculture and environmental biotechnologies, helping create a cleaner and more sustainable future.  
By strengthening incentives, investing in the facilities, and improving access to talent and expertise, New York will significantly increase its share of industry-funded research and development, support the commercialization of existing academic research, and usher in the next generation of advanced technologies. Beyond the advancements in science, this initiative will position New York as a magnet for emerging manufacturing- based enterprises to bolster regional economies and create thousands of jobs.